Georgia Tech Offense Expected To Test Tigers

With some of the top skill players in the South, Georgia Tech's offensive unit could be one of the better ones Auburn sees this season.

Auburn, Ala.–-For the Auburn defense the job is simple but very complex at the same time. If the Tigers hope to have a chance to beat Georgia Tech Saturday night they will have to slow down Yellow Jacket quarterback Reggie Ball.

A two-year veteran with 25 starts under his belt, Ball has probably seen it all in his time under center and will present a challenge for the Tiger defense. Similar in style to former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones in his ability to both run and throw, Ball can make big plays happen from anywhere on the field.

Auburn linebacker Travis Williams says that keeping him from making plays is the main goal for the defense this weekend.

"He runs like a tailback," Williams says. "He's real quick. In the SEC we play quarterbacks a lot that run around so we have to be up for the challenge. Once he gets hot he's hard to contain so we have to contain him and respect the pass first. When he gets in trouble and scrambles we have to be ready to gang tackle."

At just 5-11, 195 pounds, Ball doesn't have the physical presence of Jones in the pocket and doesn't have his straight line speed, but what he lacks in pure speed he makes up in quickness. For his career Ball has completed just over 50 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards and 26 touchdowns, but he's also thrown 29 interceptions. On the ground ball has netted 949 yards in two seasons with five touchdowns.

Calvin Johnson is a big, physical receiver that uses his 43-inch vertical leap to go up high for catches when needed.

When Ball throws there's a good chance he's looking for big number 21, Calvin Johnson. The ACC Freshman of the Year in 2004 when he caught 48 passes for 837 yards and seven touchdowns, the 6-4, 230 Johnson may be the most physical and talented receiver the Tigers will see this season.

On the other side from Johnson is physical receiver Damarius Bilbo. A former quarterback, Bilbo is a 6-3, 218 senior who has become a much more polished player since making the move outside.

Backing up the two starters will be 6-0, 190 freshman James Johnson and 5-11, 180 sophomore Pat Clark. At tight end junior Michael Matthews (6-4, 270) will get the start, but true freshman Colin Peek (6-6, 280) will see action as well and has been a standout during preseason practices for the Yellow Jackets.

In the backfield senior tailback P.J. Daniels (5-10, 210) is back and looking to recapture his form from 2003 when he rushed for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns and was named a first-team All-ACC performer. As a junior he missed four games, but still rushed for 714 yards and eight touchdowns. He is backed up by Oklahoma transfer Tashard Choice (6-1, 205, So.) and senior Chris Woods (5-11, 190).

At fullback sophomore Mike Cox (6-1, 245) gets the nod ahead of senior Ajenavi Eziemefe (6-1, 240).

While the skill positions are in good shape, the same can't be said for the offensive line with senior right tackle Brad Honeycutt (6-4, 315) the only returning starter from last season, although that was at right guard. Center Kevin Tuminello (6-4, 285) started one game last season, but missed all of spring practice after having ankle surgery. The rest of the starting line has freshman Andrew Garner (6-6, 285) at left tackle, 6-3, 285 sophomore Matt Rhodes at left guard and Mountain Brook native Nate McManus (6-3, 290, So.) at right guard.

Returning at placekicker for the Yellow Jackets is sophomore Travis Bell (6-0, 210). One of the top kickers in the country, Bell earned second-team All-ACC honors last season after making 15-17 field goals and 31-31 extra points. He was a perfect 12-12 inside 40 yards and had a long of 47 yards.

After watching Georgia Tech on video for much of the last two weeks, senior noseguard Tommy Jackson says that the challenge this weekend for the defense will be to limit the big plays and make sure the Tigers play assignment football.

"Those guys make very few mistakes," Jackson says. "They've got a really experienced quarterback that likes to run around. Those are things that, as a player, can be really dangerous. I think as far as doing assignments we'll be fine, but you have to respect their level of play. They play at a very high level and they work hard.

"He (Ball) makes things happen," Jackson adds. "That's why it's important for us to play assignment football. This is the week for that. Athletic quarterback, super-athletic receivers, great running back and a bunch of great guys on the offensive line. It's going to be a hard-fought football game on Saturday."


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